When Marvel said the Champions aren’t like the Avengers, they weren’t kidding. In Champions #3, the teen team tackles a problem the Avengers would never touch, for better or worse. Is it good?
Champions #3 (Marvel Comics)
Keep it in your pants, Jolly Green. I guess she’s just not that into you.
Talk of a real person sets the Champions off to a fake country where they encounter a situation maybe a little too authentic for four-color funny books. Smashing, spitting and gunfire galore lead to a victory that will just beget more conflict. It really is like life!
Is It Good?
“You are the heretics. We are the ones made strong by our God.”
Well, there’s something I didn’t expect to read in a Marvel comic this week!
The mission statement of Mark Waid’s Champions is for the morally upstanding, underage heroes to combat the threats ignored by their elders, ones that can’t be stopped with punching. Their first official mission could not get any more tense, as the team takes on the most thinly veiled of Taliban analogues en route to helping a group of young women save themselves and raise their status in the eyes of their culture. There’s a lot of language like the above, from all sides, so if that hits a little too close to home, be advised.
The intent of this series in general, and Champions #3 specifically, is admirable, but the combination of real-life horror with brightly-colored costumes and whizz-bang superpowers can be uncomfortably dissonant. In trying to tackle the genuine problems outside our window with word balloons and web lines, there’s a risk of trivializing truly brutal conflicts. But then, Marvel has never shied away from social issues, whether they be civil rights, drugs or security vs. privacy. This somehow feels more visceral–not so bad in and of itself, but for something hewing so close to contemporary politics, maybe the heroes shouldn’t be unilaterally undertaking missions on sovereign soil? Economic sanctions don’t make for much of a comic book, though, so maybe there’s an inherent catch-22 in this concept.
It certainly seems that veteran artist Humberto Ramos is having trouble adjusting. His work is naturally more suited to the kinetic action scenes toward the end, but seems hampered by surprisingly rookie mistakes in the more character-focused beginning, as the figure placement in the panels is, at times, uncharacteristically out of order. The redundancy of “#Champions hashtags” in the lettering doesn’t help bolster the overall presentation. Colorist Edgar Delgado is on his game, though, lending an eerie, green glow to the inside of the Hulk’s airship.
It seems sort of unfair to give Champions #3 a numerical rating, as it’s almost too experimental to judge on its own, as it’s released. The issue feels like a more true-to-life turn from Marvel’s typical political commentary, and while that may make some readers queasy, and others excited, the true impact and whether this begins a trend cannot yet be told. It’s certainly different, intentionally so, and the individual reader will have to decide if it’s a change they’re on board with.